To paraphrase Caesar, as he stood over the gallant Marc Antony, I come not to bury our Fathers, but to praise them, on this "Father's Day." Now, more than ever before, it is time to tell the truth about African American fathers.
I think of my own my father, who in my worst moments always made me feel as if I were the best thing that ever happened to him. He said it. I felt it.
I arrived in my parents' lives when they were college coeds and, although little more than children themselves, they made the very adult sacrifice and decision to marry and have me as well as my two brothers who arrived less than two years later. Still a student our father waited tables, stood in the food line at our church---in short, he did all that he could to provide for his growing family. And he and Mother took us everywhere.
I can recall one morning, before my father stepped into the pulpit to preach, being beckoned from my seat to sit with him and, as he scribbled the final touches on his sermon, he leaned over and said, "I love you, Sandy Boogie." I smiled as he kissed me and waited for...well, something else. I could not wait to get back to my seat as I was mortified to be before the entire congregation. I looked at him and said, rather quizzically, "Daddy, is that all you wanted to tell me?" His reply, as he smiled was, "Baby, saying 'I love you' says an awful lot." I nearly cried, having felt ashamed of my own insensitivity, and he simply smiled, kissed me again and had the usher lead me back to my seat.
His expression, even in that most public of venues was no surprise---it was a given in my life. My experience, though, is not unique. It has been replicated countless times in the African American community. Yet, every day we are fed a laundry list of the shortcomings of African American men; rarely, however, do we tell the society, or each other, of their triumphs.
We are told from the loftiest perches and the lowliest assignations that they must "Step up!" and "take up their responsibilities as men." All the while these critics ignore the myriad ways in which they must and do swim upstream against the strongest of currents. Currents which threaten and, too often, do sweep them into the undertow of our society. By ignoring their reality we turn our backs on a history, which has treated them with contempt. They are incarcerated more frequently, fight longer odds and live shorter lives; and yet and still, they remain strong, willing to love, survive and thrive. And so, on this "Father's Day", I'd like to expound upon their triumphs and contextualize their struggles. Any discussion which does neither, fails us all.